A milestone transition in a child’s life involves going off from elementary to middle school. Those who have gone through this change with their children learn the experience can be a fun, positive time of growth for a whole family. But it also comes with anxiety, both for parents and their new middle schoolers. Most of that anxiety can be relieved with a little preparation and information about what to expect – and how to manage whatever comes your child’s way.
Middle school is, perhaps, the first time in your child’s life when for all practical purposes mom and dad are not cool and have little credibility. As soon as a child nears puberty, he or she may begin pulling away in an effort to define his or her own identity. This can be difficult for a parent, but it’s a great time of growth for children.
Although a tween may appear to find his or her parents’ advice not helpful, when shared with patience and love, the advice can be planted into a child’s pliable young mind like seeds. In other words, they are listening, and they may take heed, even if it’s so “whatevs” to act like the advice matters.
Part of the thrill of entering middle school for kids – and part of what creates anxiety for parents – are bigger boundaries and likely more connectivity. For example:
6 Tips for Parents of Middle School Students
1. Encourage Cell Phone Safety. This may be the first time in a child’s life when he or she has a mobile device. A child with a smartphone or other mobile device makes their once small world exponentially bigger. That world can be both good and bad. A smartphone allows parents to reach their kids before and after school to arrange rides and check in. It also allows children to bond with their new friends via social media. Of course, a mobile phone can also be a distraction in school, and it can be dangerous on a walk home. Remind your child not to “cocoon” by crossing intersections and train tracks while wearing headphones and a hoodie and staring at a mobile device screen. Doing so can block out all stimuli, so that even a loud train whistle often can’t be heard. The results of this can be devastating. This mom’s cell phone contract is a MamaBear favorite.
2. Monitor Social Media.With middle school comes a new level of social media usage. Maybe your child was allowed to experiment with social apps before middle school. Or maybe you are reluctantly allowing your child to use Instagram or Kik for the first time. Social media can be a fun way for kids to stay connected outside of school. Of course, it can also pose dangers in the form of cyberbullies and strangers preying on our children. Protect your child from inappropriate social media behavior by closely monitoring their activity. The MamaBear App can save you some time with social media monitoring to know when he or she makes new friends and is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. The app will also make you aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to your child’s profile based on a restricted word list you create.
3. Keep Tabs on You’re Child’s Device Location. In middle school a child is often given more freedom to roam. After school, he or she may go with a group to the local frozen yogurt shop or a friend’s house. Parents will nonetheless worry about who they’re with and their safety. Some parents choose to worry less by installing an app like the MamaBear Family Safety App to monitor their family’s devices being aware of where he or she is before, during and after school.
4. Take the Safety Pledge. If you’re worried about your middle schooler’s safety before, during and after school both online and in real life, a safety pledge from your child may help create a agreement between you. Netsmartz.org is a a good resource.
5. Download the MamaBear Family Safety App. Middle school today isn’t what it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. While some things never change (cliques, tricky locker combinations and puppy love), children have a whole new way of connecting and communicating with the world through their mobile devices. MamaBear can help parents feel more secure when transitioning their tweens through this important developmental stage.
6. Communicate Often. Of course, nothing replaces loving, genuine communication. Talk to your kids every day. Try to eat dinner together and ask about their friends and what goes on at school. Encourage trust and an open lines of communication so that when your kids are in a bind – or when you sense something isn’t going right – they know you are there to help them through whatever challenges they face.